U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team forward Emily Bruder likes to take a direct route toward goal. Typically there are defenders in the way who object to her path of choice and often physical confrontation ensues, but that’s not Bruder’s problem. In fact, she enjoys it.
Hailing from snowy Utah, which features some of the best ski slopes in the USA, it can be said that Bruder’s attacking style is much more downhill than slalom.
Bruder is what one would call a “combative” striker: Get the ball. See the goal. Let’s go.
“I like being strong with the ball and I don’t want to let any other players get it,” said Bruder, who packs quite a bit of muscle on her 5-foot-9 frame. “I take pride in being able to use my strengths to help the team.”
Even at this young age, the 17-year-old from Juan Diego Catholic High School has come to appreciate the value of how a physical striker can wear down a defense. She just has to look to her role model, Abby Wambach.
“I watch Abby a lot,” said Bruder. “She’s definitely really physical up top and is so mentally strong. She comes to every game with that approach. Seeing her play keeps me motivated to keep playing my style and keep improving.”
She even earned the nickname “Bruiser” after the U.S. coaches clipped together some video of her bowling over three players in a row during one sequence. Whoops.
“Sometimes I feel like players just bounce off me, and it’s not my fault. It’s just because I’m bigger than them,” said Bruder. “But I do I try to assert myself right from the start of every game. It raises the level of my game and gives me confidence and hopefully helps my team fight even more.”
“She is a rare forward in that she actually inflicts more pain on defenders than defenders do on her, and over the course of a game that can take its toll on defenses,” said U.S. head coach Albertin Montoya. “At the end of the day, the word I would use is ‘effective.’ It may not be in the most aesthetically pleasing way, but she gets things done.”
While Bruder is playing at the edge of her game on the physical side, she is also working very hard on the technical aspects. When the USA plays a 4-3-3 formation, she can play at center forward with her back to the goal and hold the ball, or she can float out to the wing, preferably the left, where she can cut inside and do damage with her heavy shot or get to the end line and send in dangerous crosses.
“She is a very dangerous player because of her physical qualities,” said Montoya. “She is actually one of our best one-on-one players because her mindset is to run at goal and defenders have a hard time dispossessing her. She just has to learn when to go at goal and when choosing another option would be more beneficial to the team at that moment.'
“I’m really working on keeping possession when I receive the ball,” said Bruder. “I need to take the time, to hold it and play simple. I don’t always need to go to goal right away. I need to feel when to keep the ball, when to pass and when to take players on. Albertin has been really helping me, and I’m starting to figure it out more.”
She is also learning that her thundering run at goal pulls defenders out of position and that leaves teammates open.
“We have a lot of talented attacking players on this team, and we need to get everyone involved,” said Bruder. “I like being able to run at goal and then find my teammates with passes in dangerous spots, but I am working hard on my finishing.”
Yes, it all comes back to finishing, the bugaboo of every young forward. Bruder has scored twice in her six U-17 caps so far, including a spectacular blast from outside in a 2-0 victory against the Germany U-17s last February. But she was disappointed in herself for not putting one away in the USA’s match against the China U-20s in early April, a match that ended 0-0.
“Against China, I missed a lot of my shots, so right now I am working finding the net and placing the ball,” said Bruder. “Sometimes I have these moments when I am relaxed and can finish, and sometimes I just rush too much, so I feel I’m improving in that area.”
While goal-scoring is perhaps the most difficult part of the game, Bruder has found success in that department for high school, club and country.
A star for ECNL club Utah Avalanche, the Stanford-bound junior is already the all-time leading goal scorer at Juan Diego Catholic HS with 87 goals. She is a two-time Salt Lake Tribune Class 3A Player of the Year and led the Soaring Eagles to the Utah Class 3A semifinals this past season with 26 goals, including seven in three postseason games.
“When she gets squared up in the attacking third we almost always get something positive out of her, whether it be a shot, a cross, a corner kick or a goal,” said Montoya. “She’s deceptively fast running with the ball and can get behind defenses. She’s just very difficult to play against.”
It’s those qualities that Montoya hopes to see in the 2012 CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championships, which will send its top three finishers to the U-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan this fall. Bruder says she and her teammates are ready and have put in the work over the past year to evolve as a cohesive unit.
“In the beginning of this cycle we weren’t really playing as a team, and we all could see that,” said Bruder. “Now we look at video and we are on the same page and working as a team, covering for each other all over the field and being leaders out there. We’ve trained for a year for this. It’s time we take everything that we’ve learned put it into action on the field. I know that we can do that, and I feel good about this tournament. I know that all the girls are excited, and we are looking forward to the games. We are ready to play and have fun and win.”
Get Bruder to the starting gate.